Transforming Literature into Music: Lisa Mezzacappa

Although not much of Improvised Music or Jazz has usually been programmatic, Bay area bassist/composer Lisa Mezzacappa has spent the past several years adapting literary works into musical statements. In this article for ArtForum, Phillip Greenlief describes how Touch Bass, her newest project with choreographer Risa Jaroslow, involving  three double basses and three dancers, is just the latest in the bassist’s interest in stretching beyond expected musical tropes. For instance Avant Noir from 2014 consists of pieces that take cues from characters in novels by Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster; Glorious Ravage from 2015 is a song-cycle inspired by Victorian-era women who abandoned social norms to travel the world; and 2018’s Cosmicomics draws on an Italo Calvino’s story collection, using science in an to attempt to explain human interaction. With these projects and other performances, Mezzacappa has worked with a cross section of West Coast artists, including dancers, moving image specialists and sympathetic musicians such as guitarist Fred Frith, pianist Myra Melford, flutist Nicole Mitchell and bassist Mark Dresser.